The baseball world is replete with stories about giants of the game whose sons tried mightily to emulate their fathers' deeds on the diamond. Someone who comes to mind immediately is the late Mickey Mantle Jr., who at the age of 24 left his job in insurance to chase his dream to no avail.
The greatest hitter I have ever seen, Ted Williams, had one son, the late John Henry Williams, who attempted to follow in his father's footsteps after his father passed away in July 2002. He signed a contract with the Schaumberg Flyers of the Independent Northern League at the age of 34. That one didn't exactly go so well.
Locally, Ryan Ripken, the son of Cal Ripken, at least had the good sense to make his attempt without some type of long delay. Ryan Ripken, 25, started in the Washington Nationals' organization in 2014. He was given another chance by the Orioles in 2017, when he played with Short Season-A Aberdeen. He batted .287 with three home runs, 24 RBIs and a .323 on-base percentage during 188 at-bats.
The younger Ripken, who bats and throws left-handed, played the entire 2018 season at Low-A Delmarva. He batted just .244 with eight homers, 44 RBIs and a .287 OBP during 398 at-bats. The Orioles re-signed Ripken to a minor league deal in September.
Although Ripken is giving it a real go, it looks like his baseball career will not net him what his dreams pushed him to accomplish.
I bring this up now because of the long-awaited news conference yesterday that ushered in a new sense of optimism in Birdland. I watched and listened very carefully to everything new executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias was saying, but my vision and thoughts were about John and Louis Angelos in that setting.
When the Peter Angelos-led group of local investors outbid all comers at the bankruptcy hearing in New York City in August 1993, Peter was 64 years old and his boys were in their early to mid-20s. In fact, word had it that Peter's wife, Georgia, was the biggest baseball fan in the family and that her love of the game and the boys' love of fantasy baseball helped convince Peter to get involved in owning the Orioles in the first place.
Any members of the media who have been around since this ownership group's early days were witness to some awkward moments as John and Louis tried various times to take to the podium to speak for the organization. I am sure John and Louis -- like the sons of Mantle, Williams and Ripken -- found the waters of emulation can be very deep indeed. You can drown if you're not equipped with what's necessary to do seamlessly what your parents excelled at.
However, in the case of John and Louis, it wasn't a matter of talent; rather, it may well have been a matter of timing.
The Angelos family is as private as they are powerful in our community. This past year -- during which Peter has been battling the vagaries of aging -- hasn't been easy for any of them. Far be it from me to project or guess what plans were in place for a succession to Peter, but my best guess is Peter, like many of us, couldn't easily deal with all that aging entails.
If you couple that reality with the expiring contracts of former executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, former manager Buck Showalter and a host of players on the roster, you had the seeds in place for a tumultuous 2018 season. That nightmare scenario played itself out in front of us on a nearly nightly basis for six months, and the club ended up with 115 losses.
The fans in town never ceased to be interested in the team, but thoughts were creeping in that the Orioles had become a rudderless ship.
What we found out during the Nov. 19 news conference is that John and Louis were all along assembling the right approach. If you read about warfare in Eastern philosophy you'll read that
retreating is sometimes what is called for when planning how to move forward.
Showalter's nose was still to the grindstone in July, August and September, and Duquette was trying mightily to come out of his shell to impress upon everyone that, like Al Haig, "he was in charge." But John and Louis were in retreat readying the Orioles for the seismic changes necessary to create a successful, sustainable path.
In hiring Mike Elias, John and Louis did something their father never could really do -- admit there are professionals who truly are worthy of the trust necessary to allow them the elbow room to move forward unfettered by the fear of mistakes.
A rudderless ship? For Orioles fans, I think we can agree that John and Louis guided the Orioles safely to harbor.
To me, they no longer are the Angelos Boys. They have earned their evolution into the Angelos Men.
Photo Credit: Stan Charles/PressBox